Former mayor sues town

Posted: October 29, 2012

The Winchester Star

MIDDLETOWN — He may no longer be the mayor, but Marshall J. “Mark” Brown continues to play a prominent role in Middletown.

Brown recently launched a website devoted to keeping town residents informed about the Town Council, and Wednesday he filed a lawsuit against Middletown in Frederick County General District Court for not providing him with electronic minutes from council meetings.

Brown filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the minutes on Oct. 10, but the town’s clerk responded by saying the town would provide him 147 pages of paper copies at 20 cents per copy.

That wasn’t sufficient for Brown, who wanted the minutes in a digital format so he could post them on his website, Middletownva.net.

“All I want is the information that is being publicly handed out at meetings,” Brown said Sunday.

The Freedom of Information Act requires copies of documents to be provided in the requested format, if they are available in that format.

As of Sunday, Middletown council meeting minutes were available on the town’s website, www.middletownva.gov.

Interim Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV said Sunday that the town has yet to receive a summons and that it would be premature for him comment on Brown’s lawsuit.

Middletown does not currently have a town attorney, Harbaugh said. But Steve Butler, who resigned Jan. 1 after 35 years in the position, has recently been providing the town legal services on an as-needed basis.

The town has struggled to find a stable replacement for Butler since he stepped down on New Year’s Day.

J. David Griffin resigned in March after four months as Middletown attorney. Jason E. Ransom decided to call it quits in June after only three weeks in the position.

Brown and two council members resigned March 12, bemoaning the animosity between members of the council and committees that was causing almost constant dysfunction in the town’s government.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com